Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Weird borders

There's something fascinating about the concept of a frontier. There's grass both sides. There's tarmac both sides. But one side is France. The other's Italy. What's going on here?

And borders can be very funny things. Sometimes they can be very logical; the Mason-Dixon line for instance. And sometimes they can be anything but.

For instance there's Baarle Hertog, in Belgium. No, in Holland. No, it's in Belgium.

This site explains. It all goes back to the early middle ages, when part of Baarle was claimed by the Duke of Brabant, and the rest by the Lord of Breda.  The market place isDutch - the church is Belgian. You can play hopscotch jumping between countries.

And it gives citizens unique opportunities. The entire village is made up of tiny enclaves belonging to the Netherlands or to Belgium. If your house frontage borders both, just moving your front door would enable you to move country! That's a brilliant tax dodge.

I seem to remember a lovely story about a prize fighting contest back in the days when boxing was illegal in England. The fighters chose a place where three county boundaries came together; if the police turned up from one county, they could simply jump into another. Of course the police had no jurisdiction in that county and would just have to sit and watch the fight go on.

Sadly, I can't find chapter and verse. But it's a nice tale.

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